Turkey withdraws from Istanbul Convention - what now?

Politicians and human rights organisations inside and outside Turkey are voicing fierce criticism after Turkey pulled out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. The EU's foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell has called on Ankara to reverse the decision. Withdrawing from the 2011 convention sends a dangerous message to the world, he warned.

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Habertürk (TR) /

A dangerous first step

Pro-government columnist Nagehan Alçı fears that withdrawing from the Convention will be just the first in a wave of measures that discriminate against women, prompting her to take an unusually critical stance in Habertürk:

“In a second step, the same lobby will put everything in motion to change the regulations on child support. After that, it will demand that the law that foresees the eviction of violent men from their homes be repealed. And then in a fourth step it will do all it can to prevent the judiciary from interfering in cases of domestic violence. ... The signature that repealed the Istanbul Convention opens the door for all of this. Now I would like to ask once again. ... Honorable President, did you write your signature with a clear conscience?”

Adevărul (RO) /

Neo-traditionalism fighting rearguard battle

In a commentary for Adevărul, Islam researcher Alina Isak Alak sees the withdrawal as a sign of the weakness of Erdoğan's regime:

“From a gender perspective, the AKP, as a conservative and nationalist party, has constantly promoted a neo-traditionalist ideology in the style of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is based on the preservation of traditional gender roles with minor, culturally opportunistic adjustments. ... But women in Turkey continue their protest - and their unequal struggle against a patriarchal, authoritarian regime that, by its decision, has exposed that it has lost its influence and power over much of the population.”

Polityka (PL) /

The reactionaries are mobilising

There are always counter-movements when progress is being fought for, Polityka comment:

“A global 'anti-gender block' is forming before our eyes. Its first manifestations are international coalitions which attack progressive wording in UN documents and work to undermine abortion, sexual self-determination and even protection from domestic violence. ... Just as we once put behind us the exploitation paradigm of class society, we are now saying goodbye to the idea that one of the sexes has the privilege of exploiting the other from birth. As in the 19th century, this development is meeting with fierce political opposition and leading to reactionary, anti-progressive, misogynist coalitions.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Encouraging violence and murder

Journalist Bascha Mika is outraged in Frankfurter Rundschau:

“Beat them! Rape them! Kill them! Why didn't Turkish President Erdoğan just come out and call for violence against girls and women in an advertising campaign? Would that have been any dfferent from his denunciation of the Istanbul Convention? Anyone who abandons the Convention against violence against girls and women denies their right to life and integrity. Erdoğan's move will once again encourage all the aggression-filled fathers, husbands and brothers to play out their patriarchal power claims and fantasies of violence. Until the victims are liquidated. The consequences? The perpetrators will have even less to fear.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Farewell to the Western community of values

For the Tages-Anzeiger Ankara's move is a double debacle:

“Firstly for women in Turkey. And secondly for the whole country, which is now saying goodbye to the already increasingly fragile community of shared values with Europe and the US. ... Neither alleged cultural peculiarities nor supposed Islamic-religious guidelines can justify slapping modern Turkish women in the face like this. They are now being told to see themselves as die-hard Islamists and traditionalists have always seen them: as second-class citizens.”

T24 (TR) /

Looking for Islamist allies

T24 suspects electoral tactics behind Erdoğan's move:

“The reason is the [Islamist] Saadet party and Muslim orders which he expects to contribute to his re-election. One can assume that the AKP won't be able to win the next elections on its own. In fact, there's no guarantee that it can stay in power even with the support of the [ultra-nationalist] MHP. ... So the decision was made to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention in a bid to ensure that the Saadet party joins or supports the electoral alliance, and that the orders - which consider women to be the property of men - do not withdraw their support.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Warsaw will be glad

The Convention also has its critics in the EU, La Stampa points out:

“The Warsaw Convention. This is the name Polish conservatives would like to give to a new treaty that 'significantly improves' the Istanbul Convention. ... The government claims that the main cause of domestic violence is not structural inequality between men and women (the Convention's premise), but 'gender ideology' and the dissolution of traditional marriages. ... Should Poland withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the next step would be to create a regional alliance in Central and Eastern Europe that could further restrict the rights of women and LGBT people in the EU. ... Now all eyes are on the countries that have not ratified the Istanbul Convention, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania.”